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Terror threat level against police rises to 'high'

By Agencies in Sydney | China Daily | Updated: 2015-01-21 07:56

Officers 'easy targets' in country allied with US in fight against IS extremists in Syria and Iraq

Australia raised the threat level of a terrorist attack against law enforcement officers to "high" on Tuesday, federal police said.

"High" is the second highest level on a scale of four and was designated on the basis of intelligence, discussions with international partners and recent high-profile attacks in Europe and Canada.

The change in the threat level for police officers brings it in line with the current threat level against the general public, which was raised to high in September and has remained so following a hostage crisis in Sydney in December.

"As a result of intelligence information and discussions with our partners, the terrorism threat level against police is assessed as high, which is commensurate with the broader threat level for the community," Australian Federal Police said in a statement.

"Recent events in France, Canada and Australia serve as a sobering reminder of the risks associated with policing," the statement said.

In December, two hostages and a gunman were killed after police stormed a downtown Sydney cafe to end a 16-hour standoff with the hostage-taker, a loner and convicted criminal who identified himself with radical Sunni Islamist groups.

Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its action against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, is on high alert for attacks by sympathizers of the radical group and from homegrown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East.

Last week, two gunmen were killed in Belgium during raids against an Islamist group that authorities said were planning to attack police.

Three police officers were among 17 people killed in France this month during three days of extremist attacks, while in Canada two soldiers were killed in separate incidents in October, including one shot while standing guard at the War Memorial in Ottawa.

The heightened alert also comes after a "known terror suspect" was shot dead in Melbourne in September after stabbing two police officers, a day after the IS group called for Muslims to kill Australians indiscriminately.

Both policemen survived the attack.

"While relatively small, there are increasing numbers of Australians who are connected with or inspired by overseas terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, with the intent and capability to conduct an attack against police," the statement said.

The factors that had led to the elevated general terrorism threat level for Australia to high in September had persisted and the security environment was "increasingly complex and challenging", it said.

Australian state and territory police forces said the assessment was a reminder that police, often the first responders to incidents, needed to be vigilant about security.

"We are easy to target, ... you simply call us and we come," Western Australia's acting police commissioner Stephen Brown said. "You've seen the way this has played out across the world; that either in response or by being targeted because they're highly visible, police are being acted out against."

AP - Reuters - AFP

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